NPP Legislators Approve $9.25B Budget… Prepa To Evaluate Comptroller’s Report… Isla Grande Conv. Ctr Ready Soon… OSJ Pedestrian Plan Opposed… The Gregorian… NPP Leaders Challenge Referendum Law… Pridco Chief Confirmed, Another AAV Nominee Quits… PR, DR Sign Cooperation pact

NPP Legislators Approve $9.25 Billion Budget

June 30, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — After reaching an agreement in a conference committee on Thursday, the New Progressive Party (NPP) leaders of the Legislative Assembly approved a budget of a little more than $9.25 billion.

The amount is slightly higher than the $9.21 billion that the House of Representatives had approved last week, but it continues to be lower than the $9.68 billion budget that Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila had intended.

The recently proposed budget includes an additional $150,000 in Legal Aid and $3.5 million to attend to the needs of the Committee of Interns and Residents at the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus.

Also, the budget resolution has included a $36 million allocation for the negotiations with union workers; $1.3 million for the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and $4 million for the Administration of Mental Health Services Against Drug Addition.

They also approved funds to pay police officers up to $16 million in overtime. As for the department's $40 million debt in overtime pay, the NPP leaders said the amount has been guaranteed through an executive allocation of funds.

House Speaker Jose Aponte said the Police Department’s budget for next fiscal year increased by $60 million, when compared to the current budget of $714 million.

Senate President Kenneth McClintock said, for his part, that the proposed budget has cut excessive government spending in several areas such as the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) in Washington.

The $9.25 billion include additional allocations to the Civil Rights Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, the Institute of Forensic Sciences, the Parole Board, the Government Ethics Office, and the Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office, among others.

The NPP legislative leaders such as Sens. Migdalia Padilla and Lucy Arce said they hoped the governor would approve the budget.

Prepa To Evaluate Comptroller’s Report

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin

June 30, 2005
Copyright © 2005
PRWOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Following the report that Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña revealed regarding the alleged excessive spending of public funds at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) during former Gov. Sila Calderon’s administration, Prepa Press Office Administrator Mabel Del Valle said the authority is currently evaluating the findings to see whether the money had in fact been misspent.

However, Del Valle noted that Prepa doesn’t sponsor events unless they provide the opportunity to deliver a direct message to its clients.

"We are obviously investigating the report and we will certainly take the necessary steps that may be needed to correct the situation," said Del Valle, who has been working as Press Office administrator since February 2004.

Diaz Saldaña said Prepa had paid for invoices that had been made out to Flora Communications without requesting proof of services rendered. The Comptroller also identified donation and sponsorships to other government agencies as well as to private entities, even when such use of funds is forbidden by law.

Other expenses included the spending of more than $75,000 to cover events at La Fortaleza, one of them being the Three Kings’ Day Festivities. Prepa also paid for the former governor’s ads and events following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Diaz Saldaña said the use of public funds for matters other than of public interest could increase the costs of energy sold to Prepa clients.

Del Valle noted that such findings are related to events that took place before she had assumed her duties as Press Office administrator. However, she defended Prepa’s policy to educate the community on important safety issues, such as how to save energy, how to plant trees away from power lines, and how to pay for utility invoices through the Internet. She also said Prepa has been known to replace TV and radio ads for a more direct approach offered through community events and activities.

Isla Grande Convention Center Ready In November

June 30, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Convention Center in Isla Grande is expected to be ready in November and reservations for December events that will inject millions of dollars to the local economy have already been confirmed, Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said Wednesday.

As of June 2005, 16 reservations had been confirmed for December and for later dates. More than 50,000 rooms have been booked and about 38,000 people are expected to participate in these events.

According to the governor, these numbers will have an economic impact of $18.7 million with a multiplying effect of $31.4 million.

"The works at the new Conventions Center of the Isla Grande area are in their final stages. Soon we will begin construction of a new hotel and of a new residential project," Acevedo Vila said.

Some of the events that will be held at the Conventions Center are the San Juan Beauty Show 2005; an event from Verizon; Expo Calidad de Vida; Expo Alimentos 2006; the Caribbean Boat Show; Promo Exhibit; Becton Dickinson, and the International Tourism Fair.

The governor said the bidding process for the construction of the office tower, the housing project, as well as the entertainment and commercial centers at the Conventions Center District would start Thursday.

Acevedo Vila said there are already 40 developers who are interested in the Office Tower Project to be funded with private and public funds. The construction will include 216,000 square feet and 466 parking spaces.

Old San Juan Residents Oppose Pedestrian Plan

June 30, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The pilot plan to convert Old San Juan into a pedestrian-only city slated for Aug. 27 was criticized by a group of residents and business owners who believe the initiative would only benefit a few restaurants at Fortaleza Street.

A dozen members of the Association of United Residents & Business Owners of San Juan said they don’t rule out the possibility of taking the issue to court to prevent the implementation of the plan.

Carlos Perez, who lives and owns a gym on Fortaleza Street, said San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini would only benefit a few restaurants he likes and that are already going very well, while neglecting other more pressing needs.

Perez said some of these needs are open sewers on the sidewalks, abandoned buildings, poor lighting, low water pressure, traffic and parking problems, and the homeless.

The group of Old San Juan residents and business owners suggested to postpone the pilot plan until an environmental impact study can be completed. They also urged Santini to meet with them and take their opinions into account before implementing the plan.

"The Gregorian"


Dan Holdsworth

92 Hoxton Street

June 04—July 16

This small show concentrates Dan Holdsworth's latest group of photos, "The Gregorian," 2005, into only three representative works, and is a graceful distillation not just of the larger series, but of his work to date. The 2001 Beck's Futures finalist has always observed the marginal spaces between the natural and the constructed and the peripheries of time and place. In the process, Holdsworth manages to eliminate almost all evidence of context, making the banal abstract: Dislocated mall parking lots and roadside billboards are barely recognizable. For "The Gregorian," Holdsworth traveled to the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, home to the world's largest radio telescope (it covers twenty acres of land deep in the forest; the title of the series refers to the Gregorian dome in which the antennae are positioned). Even Holdsworth's large formats cannot capture the immensity of the structure, but they don't need to. The strangeness of the oscillating platform alone, lit from within during the night and at dusk, and the long exposures used to catch the motion, are enough to evoke the sheer unexpectedness of the structure–which appears to be throwing off shooting star-like sparks–above the forest canopy. The photos manage to evoke not just the remarkable structure, but the futuristic purpose of this very deliberate mechanical object.

Eugenia Bell

NPP Leaders Challenge Referendum Law

June 29, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Five representatives of the New Progressive Party (NPP) filed a legal request before the Puerto Rico Supreme Court on Wednesday to repeal the law that enables the celebration of a referendum on the legislative system of the island, slated for July 10.

NPP Reps. Iris Miriam Ruiz, Maria de Lourdes Ramos, Francisco Gonzalez, Carlos Mendez, and Angel Bulerin said the referendum law is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit has been filed against State Elections Commission President Aurelio Gracia, the electoral commissioners of the NPP, the Popular Democratic Party, and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, as well as against Justice Secretary Roberto Sanchez Ramos.

"The previous Legislative Assembly took it upon itself to amend the Constitution by law to create a new system that would restructure an entire government branch, bypassing the procedure which had already been established in Article 7 of the Commonwealth Constitution," Ruiz said in a prepared statement.

Senate Confirms New Pridco Chief

June 29, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Puerto Rico Senate on Wednesday confirmed Jorge Silva Puras as the new executive director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (Pridco).

Silva Puras had already been confirmed as secretary of the Department of Economic Development & Commerce.

The new Pridco chief replaced Marie Roberts, who had resigned the post several months ago.

The Senate confirmed Silva Puras 18-1. Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. Maria de Lourdes Santiago voted against his confirmation.

Another AAV Nominee Quits

June 29, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — Elizabeth Sola Oliver, who is the designated executive director of the State Historic Preservation Office (OECH by its Spanish acronym), has decided to step down from the post, said Fernando Garcia, who is the press officer for the Senate Higher Education, Transportation, Science & Culture Committee.

As of Tuesday, Sola Oliver’s nomination had not been sent to the floor. However, the committee had filed a negative report on the nominee.

Sola Oliver is the seventh nominee to resign Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila’s cabinet after Education Secretary-designate Gloria Baquero, Special Independent Prosecutor’s Office (SIP) President Crisanta Gonzalez, SIP member Carlos Maldonado, Socioeconomic Financing General Coordinator Julia Torres, Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. Executive Director Marie Roberts, and Coop Economic Development Administrator Ivan Alexis Otero.

According to the report, Sola Oliver had taken courses to complete her master’s degree during work hours and had used the agency’s official vehicle for personal use.

The report also states that she appeared to have insufficient knowledge to head the OECH.

Puerto Rico, DR Sign Cooperation Accord

June 29, 2005
Copyright © 2005
EFE. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (EFE) — The Dominican Republic and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on Tuesday signed a Declaration of Mutual Cooperation to promote actions that are aimed at taking advantage of the opportunities that may come with the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (Cafta).

Last week, U.S. President George W. Bush sent the treaty to Congress for approval.

Although Puerto Rico already has commercial agreements with the neighboring country; the Declaration of Mutual Cooperation that was signed on Tuesday would also include private companies.

According to Kevin Manning, who is the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic, Cafta would eliminate more than 80% of applicable tariffs for Puerto Rican goods.

Puerto Rico Commerce & Export Co. Executive Director Ricardo A. Rivera said commercial trade between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic has been estimated in $1.5 billion, which he hopes Cafta will help increase to $6 billion.

Rivera announced that on July 14, the bilateral trade commission that was created in 2003 between the two islands will meet to identify the elements that will need fine-tuning regardless of whether Cafta is ratified.

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